The Irish Potato Famine and The Holocaust in Literature Essay

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The Irish Potato Famine and The Holocaust in Literature


Writers often use literature as a means of communicating traumatic events that occur in history, and such events are recorded by first-hand accounts as well as remembered by people far removed from the situation. Two traumatic events in history that are readily found in literature are The Irish Potato Famine and The Holocaust. A literary medium that has been used quite poignantly to convey trauma is poetry and the poetry from these two historical traumatic events is not difficult to find. Some wrote poetry to maintain their sanity as they experienced the traumatic event while others wrote after-the-fact as an outlet for emotional pain. Some wrote in remembrance of what they
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The author also benefits from writing about the trauma; a need to express what has happened, is quenched. It is shown that the “literature of trauma is written from the need to tell and retell the story of the traumatic experience, to make it ‘real’ both to the victim and to the community…[as well as] serving both as a validation and cathartic vehicle for the traumatized author” (Tal 21). The story is larger than the words of the author. His or her life has been permanently altered by trauma, and by acknowledging it in the realm of reality, readers can take part in the trauma.

In both of the historical events above, a great many people faced trauma, pain, starvation, disease, and all for a reason that is difficult, if not impossible to pinpoint. There is no way to determine why either situation occurred in history, but it is possible to examine the literature—more specifically the poetry—written during, after, and about those surreal events. Kali Tal has researched the literature of trauma extensively and states that the “literature of trauma is defined by the identity of its author [and it] holds at its center the reconstruction and recuperation of the traumatic experience” (16). She believes that a…

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